Changes, however minor, are coming to The Claw, USF’s golf course.
Golf Strategies, a management company based out of Safety Harbor that took over the operations of the course per a March 14 agreement with Sun Dome, Inc., has started work on improvements in an effort to revive the financially stagnant course.
The contract between the two firms is five years in length and is the first move toward improving the struggling course since November 2004, when the Academic and Campus Environment Work Group of the Board of Trustees allowed The Claw to negotiate with the Florida State Golf Association, the governing body of amateur golf in Florida.
The complete terms of the contract – such as the amount of capital Golf Strategies is investing into the course – were not released. Even though the company has started making changes, Golf Strategies Regional Manager Steve Purviance said significant renovations are not in the works.
“We’re not trying to reinvent it,” Purviance said. “We know it’s a daily fee facility. We’re not trying to make a country club out of it, but we do want to make it a friendly place that’s in good condition.”
The condition of the playing surfaces – especially the greens – has been an issue for the past few years. Purviance said Golf Strategies ran soil tests and hired a greens superintendent, something The Claw has been without for several months.
“People want to play a golf course that’s in good condition,” Purviance said. “If we get the golf course in the condition that we feel we can get it into relatively quickly, we’ll attract the tournament play that we need.”
Purviance said after the course is taken care of, Golf Strategies has other plans to help the course make money.
“Marketing for tournaments is going be one of our primary avenues for creating revenues,” Purviance said.
Athletic Director Doug Woolard oversaw the agreement between the two firms and commented on USF’s financial share of the deal.
“We’ll get a revenue split,” Woolard said. “We’ll get a share of gross receipts that comes into the golf course.”
Woolard added that any losses will be absorbed by Golf Strategies.
Perhaps the biggest change that has taken place is in personnel, where both men’s golf coach Jim Fee and women’s golf coach Susan Holt were relieved of their duties to The Claw to focus on coaching. Fee was the director of golf operations, and Holt was responsible for merchandising for the course.
“One of the things I was trying to do was to get them in a position – as we’re in the Big East – (where) they can really concentrate more on coaching golf,” Woolard said.
Although the agreement is for five years, Woolard said “conversations” with FSGA are still ongoing, although the most recent talks with FSGA found both parties in disagreement.
“Their concept was a little different than just coming to manage the golf course,” Woolard said. “They’re interested in maybe redesigning (or) doing some other things with the course. We’re still going to have conversations with them to see if it makes sense for us or them as we move forward.”
Moving forward with improvements to The Claw was the main reason for the agreement, according to Woolard.
“Our hope is during the time, each year, we’ll see an improved golf course for students, staff, faculty and really the entire community,” Woolard said.